Inspirations (1997)

Directed by Michael Apted
Starring Tadao Ando, David Bowie, Dale Chihuly, Louise LeCavalier, Roy Lichtenstein, Edouard Locke, Nora Naranjo-Morse

Anamorphic: No.

My Advice: Rent It.

Of major interest to non-artists is the behind-the-scenes workings of artists. This is why a writer like Stephen King or Neil Gaiman has to deal with being asked millions of times over the course of his lifespan: "So where do you get your ideas?" Director Michael Apted, whose later documentary, Me and Isaac Newton, along these same lines took a similar look into the minds of scientists. But here, he's assembled a cadre of artists from mostly different disciplines to try and figure out what makes them tick.

Although normally we dislike comparing films, seeing as how these two films are obviously brethren, we can be forgiven. This is mostly to illustrate the fact that while Inspirations has its moments, the later film is obviously from a director who knows the lay of the land he's traversing a lot better. Granted, you do get some insightful tidbits from seven names. Tadao Ando is an architect working out of Osaka, Japan. David Bowie is, well, David Bowie. Dale Chihuly makes the most amazing glassblown sculptures you've ever seen. Edouard Locke and Louise LeCavalier are choreographer and dancer, respectively, using extreme movement to create novel dance ideas. Roy Lichtenstein is the famous pop artist who uses dots to translate different subjects into a strange kind of comic print emulation. Nora Naranjo-Morse is a Native American artist who works in clay, sometimes very large amounts of it.

There is some good to be found here. Bowie basically takes the viewer, in a short span of time, from creation of an idea (via computer) to executing it in the studio. There are a few Lichtenstein works shown in progress of being created. Chihuly's work is given a lot of attention, and the scenes with his workshop in full swing, sometimes with young students learning the trade, is quite fascinating.

While I realize that Apted was working with a limited amount of, excuse the metaphor, canvas here--I question some of his choices of subjects. If you were trying to get a well-rounded view of artists in general, why include two subjects who both work in dance? Why include three visual artists? There are so many fields that were left out, but the obvious questions are: why not a filmmaker? why not a poet? or a writer of fiction?

Also, what we do have from these seven lacks the introspection of the later Apted piece. It seemed to do less and provide less information in the allotted time than Newton accomplished. This being said, what it does manage to do makes it worthy enough for a viewing. For those interested in the artists listed, or even just their fields, there is something to be gained--although more would have been appreciated.

For the disc itself, there are no features to be speak of. Although this would have been out of the jurisdiction of Home Vision Entertainment, who released the film on DVD, we can always dream: some galleries of the visual artists' and Ando's work would have been nice, as well perhaps some content from the dancers and Bowie. But bottom line: even with our noted reservations, those interested parties should at least give it a rental.

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